It’s hard to imagine this winter could actually get worse for the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, but it just might happen.
Both teams dumped star players, and now could face penalties from Major League Baseball for their fire sales.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that the MLB Players Association is investigating whether the clubs circumvented rules designed to promote competitive balance.
Last night, I wrote the MLBPA is looking into the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins for potential revenue-sharing rules violations. I've expanded that into a deeper story today that tries to answer the question: What, exactly, does this all mean? https://t.co/sXHhH3GBkg
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 26, 2018
Each team received about $50 million in revenue sharing, and the collective bargaining agreement states “each Club shall use its revenue sharing receipts … in an effort to improve its performance on the field.”
Looking at the Marlins and Pirates, it’s hard to make the argument that they’ve made the effort to improve at all.
It's been a busy offseason for the Marlins pic.twitter.com/tPtLCqAqsC
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) January 26, 2018
With Thursday’s trade of Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Miami has completed the deconstruction of its outfield, having already dealt National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and fellow All-Star Marcel Ozuna to St. Louis.
Earlier in the offseason, new Miami owner Derek Jeter sent former batting champion Dee Gordon to Seattle.
Pittsburgh hasn’t gone quite as deep, but the Bucs traded their former MVP Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco earlier this month, two days after sending staff ace Gerrit Cole to Houston.
All-Star second/third baseman Josh Harrison is rumored to be on the block and very well could be moved before spring training.
The Pirates’ moves have inspired criticism of the organization by agent Scott Boras.
The notorious super agent unloaded on Pirates owner Bob Nutting.
“They increased profits by $60 million [since 2012], and they’re saying they can’t retain their stars?” Boras said. “It’s clearly a matter of choice. They choose not to [retain players] because they want to make money.”
Passan points out that Marlins ownership is trying to lower severe debt that it inherited. That, along with the franchise’s history of fire sales, can be used against it.
Pittsburgh is in a different situation, as Forbes estimates the Pirates have received more than $250 million from MLB over the past eight seasons. During that period of time, the value of the franchise has soared from $250 million to $1.25 billion.
To which Boras retorts: “When I hear them say, ‘We’re the poor Pittsburgh Pirates,’ I go, ‘Whoa! Just a minute. This guy [Nutting] is sitting on an economic volcano. Where else can you increase the value of your franchise to $1 billion and not have to win anything?”
Passan writes, “Should the union and MLB find issue with a team’s financials, commissioner Rob Manfred can penalize the team or, as was the case with the Marlins, impel it to spend.”
Cases like this are hard to prove, but let’s just say a long winter may be getting longer in Pittsburgh and Miami.
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